Unfortunately, this is a longstanding food myth. The idea that your body, at an elemental level, is sending signals to your brain forcing you to drink a glass of orange juice or dive into a slice of cheesecake is simply off the mark.
Food cravings, at least for humans, tend to revolve around emotional needs rather than physical ones. In fact, if a food is forbidden (remember that slice of cheesecake?), you'll probably want it all the more. There is one notable exception: If you are nutritionally deficient in iron, you'll have cravings -- but not for iron-rich steak or liver, as you might imagine. Instead, you might chew on significant amounts of ice cubes, a condition known as pagophagia. It's a variant of pica, a disorder in which people eat things -- clay, paper, chalk -- that aren't actually food [source: O'Connor, Weil].
Author's Note: 10 False Nutrition Facts Everyone Knows
I've eaten my share of fat-free cookies washed down with skim milk. And then I decided I'd rather splurge on small amounts of full-fat foods that taste good (where's some umami when you need it?). Good news? This strategy turned out to be just as effective, maybe more so, than trying to replace the foods I liked with low-fat alternatives.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Is Potato Skin the Most Nutritious Part of Potatoes?" (June 14, 2014) http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442459089
- American Heart Association. "Sea Salt Vs. Table Salt." May 12, 2014. (June 14, 2014) http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Sea-Salt-Vs-Table-Salt_UCM_430992_Article.jsp
- American Thyroid Association. "Iodine Deficiency." (June 14, 2014) http://www.thyroid.org/iodine-deficiency/
- Aubrey, Allison. "The Full-Fat Paradox: Whole Milk May Keep Us Lean." NPR. Feb. 12, 2014. (June 18, 2014) http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/02/12/275376259/the-full-fat-paradox-whole-milk-may-keep-us-lean
- Berkeley Wellness. "Faux Fiber Versus the Real Thing." Dec. 1, 2011. (June 18, 2015) http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/faux-fiber-versus-real-thing
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Saturated Fat." (June 14, 2014) http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/fat/saturatedfat.html
- Cooking Light. "10 Nutrition Myths." (June 14, 2014) http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/nutrition-101/nutrition-myths-facts/view-all
- Flipse, Robyn. "Top 5 Potato Myths." Alliance for Potato Research and Education. May 7, 2014. (June 18, 2014) http://www.apre.org/science/apre-blog/post/top-5-potato-myths/
- Food Marketing Institute. "Supermarket Facts." (June 14, 2014) http://www.fmi.org/research-resources/supermarket-facts
- Giles-Smith, Karen. "Milk Fat Does a Body Good." (June 14, 2014) http://www.todaysdietitian.com/news/exclusive0912.shtml
- Glassman, Keri. "Say No to Sugar-Free and Fat-Free Claims." U.S. News and World Report. April 30, 2013. (June 14, 2014) http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/04/30/sugar-free-and-fat-free-claims-dont-fall-for-them
- Hendley, Joyce. "The 13 Biggest Nutrition and Food Myths Busted." Eating Well. (June 14, 2014) http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/the_13_biggest_nutrition_and_food_myths_busted
- Kannall, Erica. "List of Foods That Are Rich in Magnesium, Potassium and Calcium." Livestrong. Jan. 8, 2014. (June 18, 2014) http://www.livestrong.com/article/70088-list-foods-rich-magnesium-potassium/
- O'Connor, Anahad. "The Claim: A Craving for Ice is a Sign of Anemia." The New York Times. June 21, 2010. (June 18, 2014) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/22/health/22real.html?ref=health
- O'Connor, Anahad. "The Claim: Eating Carrots Improves Your Eyesight." The New York Times. May 3, 2005. (June 14, 2014) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/03/health/03real.html?_r=0
- Mayo Clinic. "Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet." (June 14, 2014) http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983
- Parker, Hilary. "A Sweet Problem: Princeton Researchers Find that High-Fructose Corn Syrup Prompts Considerably More Weight Gain." Princeton University. March 22, 2010. (June 14, 2014) http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/
- Poulter, Sean. "Low Fat Foods 'Contain 20 percent More Sugar than Full-Fat Equivalents.'" Daily Mail. April 6, 2014. (June 14, 2014) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2598042/Low-fat-foods-contain-20-sugar-fat-equivalents-Experts-warn-lead-weight-gain.html
- Royer, Blake. "Dinner Tonight: Roasted Bone-in Chicken." Serious Eats. March 27, 2012. (June 14, 2014) http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/03/dinner-tonight-roasted-bone-in-chicken-breast.html
- Self. "Potatoes, Boiled, Cooked Without Skin, Flesh, Without Salt." (June 18, 2014) http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2558/2
- Smith, K. Annabelle. "A WWII Propaganda Campaign Popularized the Myth that Carrots Help You See in the Dark." Smithsonian. Aug. 13, 2013. (June 14, 2014) http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-wwii-propaganda-campaign-popularized-the-myth-that-carrots-help-you-see-in-the-dark-28812484/?no-ist
- Teicholz, Nina. "The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease." The Wall Street Journal. May 6, 2014. (June 14, 2014) http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303678404579533760760481486
- U.S. Potato Board. "Are Potatoes Healthy? Yes, They Are." (June 14, 2014) http://www.potatogoodness.com/nutrition/
- WebMD. "Low-Fat Diet: Why Fat-Free Isn't Trouble-Free." (June 14, 2014) http://www.webmd.com/diet/low-fat-diet
- Weil, Andrew. "Pica: Why Crave Ice?" Dr. Weil. July 26, 2010. (June 28, 2014) http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400757/Pica-Why-Crave-Ice.html
HowStuffWorks finds out about the health benefits of microgreens.